A novel form of RNA double helix based on G·U and C·A(+) wobble base pairing


  • A. Garg
  • U. Heinemann


  • RNA


  • RNA 24 (2): 209-218


  • Wobble base pairs are critical in various physiological functions and have been linked to local structural perturbations in double helical structures of nucleic acids. We report a 1.38-Å resolution crystal structure of an antiparallel octadecamer RNA double helix in overall A conformation, which includes a unique, central stretch of six consecutive wobble base pairs (W helix) with two GvU and four rare C·A(+) wobble pairs. Four adenines within the W helix are N1-protonated and wobble-base-paired with the opposing cytosine through two regular hydrogen bonds. Combined with the two G·U pairs, the C·A(+) base pairs facilitate formation of a half turn of W-helical RNA flanked by six regular Watson-Crick base pairs in standard A conformation on either side. RNA melting experiments monitored by differential scanning calorimetry, UV and circular dichroism spectroscopy demonstrate that the RNA octadecamer undergoes a pH-induced structural transition which is consistent with the presence of a duplex with C·A(+) base pairs at acidic pH. Our crystal structure provides a first glimpse of an RNA double helix based entirely on wobble base pairs with possible applications in RNA or DNA nanotechnology and pH biosensors.